Archive for the “ramblings” Category

Attending the Singapore Toys, Games, and Comics Convention: one day.

Organizing my notes from the NUS talks: one day.

Researching based on my notes: two hours.

Getting distracted by other fascinating tangents to the research: two days.

Trying to find random pictures to break up the text: four days.

Actually sitting down seriously and writing the post: four hours.

You can read my ramblings on Watching Anime For The Story Vs Watching Anime For The Characters over at Animenauts, as usual.

Next time: yaoi.

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Cirno and her gang.

I seem to remember, somewhere in the distant mists of the Internet Time past (distinct from, say, Valve Time), some sort of diatribe going around the English-language anime blog community like some sort of strangely-contagious cold. I think it had something to do with K-On at the time, as a catalyst for an issue that had been bubbling away for some time. I posted something in reaction based on what was being argued at face value, because I was still not sure what I thought about the general case yet.

I'm still not sure, but I might have ascended to a higher level of ignorance. I think. Maybe.

The argument put forth is that a character who is, shall we say, not entirely quick on the uptake when it comes to mental gymnastics should not be popular. The term used was "retarded moe", which strikes me as an odd effect of semantics: by using what has become an insult in many juvenile mudslinging matches, coupled with the probably-oversimplified idea of moe commonly held to be the entire territory itself (instead of merely a guide map), the issue has become equally oversimplified, and boiled down to its extremes. It's easier to attack the edges of the graph, even if they turn out to be strawmen.

I've noticed that this "retardedness", and I am willing to experiment with other terms to find one that fits better, comes in a variety of flavours, and it's not really clear where one begins and ends, as well as the differing subsets and intersections thereof. Off the top of my head, there is the one which seems to be the primary target, exemplified (at least in recent memory) as Fuuko from Clannad: clumsy and bad at schoolwork, and not exactly overflowing with common sense. Clumsy Stupid characters mess up a lot, but always in an adorable manner, and the viewer is supposedly compelled to help them out if only to keep them from hurting themselves. Not because they're liable to poke pencils into their ears, but because they don't give up, and they'll keep doing whatever it is they do, no matter how many times they fail.

Then there is the Straightforward Stupid, as seen (again in recent memory) with… well, not Negi, but more his father Nagi, in Negima. The idea of Nagi's special brand of idiocy is discusses at some length in the manga: it's not so much plain stupidity as a sort of stubborn bloody-mindedness, a feeling that everything can be dealt with if you have More Power, or More Love, or More Spiral Energy, or whatever. A direct, straightforward rush, and a refusal to worry about the little details beforehand, although it should be noted that they don't completely ignore them either; they just deal with it as it comes. This is the Stupidity of the typical shounen action hero protagonist. I'm a little iffy about this one, because there's a hint of anti-intellectualism involved: why bother with thinking intelligently when it's shown to be less effective than blasting through everything at loud volumes?

There's the Cheerful Stupid, again shown in recent works with Recette from Recettear. The "well, I don't know what's going on, but everyone should get along" sort. The ones who have their own invincible magic of Zettai Daijoubu. There's an unrelenting, unceasing cheer which, assuming the setting is light enough to allow it, infects everyone else and brings them around to the Cheerful Stupid character's viewpoint, full of cheer and hope. If they worry about things, it will be the little details that everyone else sees as unimportant. Maybe they believe that the big problems would be solved "somehow", through sheer determination, or they know that worrying about it isn't going to make things any better. This overlaps to a certain degree with the Clumsy Stupid: they keep trying, because they believe that in the end, they'll succeed.

We also have the Prideful Stupid, which was what prompted this rambling post. Anime-wise, we see it with Ika Musume in her titular anime, but I was pondering this while reading various 4koma doujins of Cirno from the Touhou-verse. This brand of Stupidity has a lot of links to the Straightforward version, but it also has some effect for the Cheerful Stupid at times. The idea is that the Prideful Stupid character is the best person for the job, and possibly the best person period. The leadership position should fall to them naturally, even though they might not actually know what to do; they just think they're qualified, and don't bother them about the details. Ika Musume wants to take over the world, even though she has no idea what the world is like. Cirno says she's the strongest, even though she's at the low-tier of power objectively.

There are plenty more varieties, of course (for example, the Spacy Stupid, as seen in the later portrayals of Osaka-san in Azumanga Daioh). And this doesn't always have to do with anime, or even moe, but that's outside the scope of this blog. Well, to be honest, it's more of a raised eyebrow at the possibility of this post being even longer than it already is.

I suspect some of it is indeed due to the Stupid Person being female, and a cute anime girl at that. We forgive a lot of things when it's presented with eye candy. This effect also applies to small children of either gender, assuming you don't actively dislike small children of either gender.

In fact, it's often because this trait of Stupidity resembles that of young children that there's an unexpected appeal. Here, the Stupidity is transformed into Innocence, or perhaps Naivete. Not knowing the ways of the world, and not caring, as long as they have fun. Coming up with even more bizarre ways of dealing with the little inconveniences and problems of life that we, burdened with Common Sense and Practicality, might not have the imagination for.

This might be why we may be particularly affected by the thought of these young characters grown up, and remembering the stupid fun things they did in childhood. The ephemerality of this innocence is far more effective than when the characters are forever young and Stupid. Someday, Calvin will grow up, and we wonder if he will still remember Hobbes.

And when I look at pictures of Cirno, the ones which I love most are those with the rest of Team 9, portrayed as Cirno's gang of friends. Because here and now, in this frozen instant of time, she is indeed the strongest.

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No idea who this is.

Where did the idea of magical girls being ultra-violent battle-happy beamspammers come from? This is distinct from merely being inclined to fight first and Zettai Daijoubu later; to qualify, the magical girl in question has to have their abilities occasionally defined in terms of "blast radius" and "ground zero".

The obvious source that comes to mind is Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, but like all obvious sources, it feels a little too obvious. I'd accept Nanoha as having popularized the concept into the mainstream, but I'm interested, in an academically-fascinated kind of way, if there was something earlier.

Despite my love of the genre, I don't actually know a lot about the history of magical girls. My interest can be traced quite directly from Card Captor Sakura (the best anime of all time, OF ALL TIME), and then expanding silently and insidiously to other examples of the concept, such as Minky Momo and Akazukin Chacha and suchlike. I suspect there may be an element of wish-fulfilment in these shows for their target audience: wouldn't you want to be someone with Special Powers just for a while? And since anything in life that comes free is viewed with perhaps justified suspicion, the price is having to keep it secret, or having to fight against the forces of darkness. Good, clean motivations, without much moral ambiguity.

Gigantic energy beams of annihilation might fall under the Special Powers category, but I'm not sure if they're as clear-cut in wish-fulfilment. This seems to be more or less the domain of action-adventure stories, particularly since these beams do damage; a lot of "classic" magical girl deals with "purification", rather than "beating the stupid out of". Here is an Enemy: would you rather use your powers to make them a Friend, or to blast them into the bedrock?

(Yes, I know Nanoha and others of her stripe tend to do both at once.)

Interestingly, apart from Nanoha herself, I haven't seen many straight examples of the beamspammer magical girl, and certainly none that come to mind right away. Most of the examples I've seen are one-off parodies in other anime, which focus both on the damage potential of the character of the show-in-a-show, as well as the fanservice and its effects on fandom demographics. The male late-teens to early-twenties anime fan is a frequent target of derision, particularly if they're seen to be interested in a show that is meant for a "purer" class, like the actual preteen girls the shows were originally said to be for.

Which makes it all the more stranger when the show is deliberately aimed towards these male anime fans, often to the direct detriment of the preteen girl demographic, and yet makes fun of its fans. Maybe we are assumed to be able to take a joke.

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Gendou in his trademark pose.

I'm back from Reservist training, and have been for most of a recuperative week. Part of the recuperation is in finding out what I missed in the two weeks I was essentially incommunicando.

Apparently a new anime season is starting up? This is not news, to be sure, but it does place me in a strange position: an anime blogger who has no idea what the new season brings, and is finding it increasingly difficult to care.

Which isn't to say that I have suddenly burned out on all anime ever, of course. Rather, I'd like to just pause the world for a week or two (perhaps to make up for the time I was gone), in order to catch up on the last season's anime.

Blogs have certain expectations of them, if they want to retain interested readers. If we blog about the latest and newest anime, it's understood to be our raison d'etre, and will obviously raise no commentary and eyebrows. If we blog about older anime, perhaps those of a few years past, it's "rediscovering" or "rewatching" or whatever. Slightly more unusual, but also no big deal.

But a blogger who goes through an anime series episodically one or two seasons behind the curve is… slow. Focusing on olds, rather than news, which in the case of a new media outlet like a blog is a cardinal sin.

Admittedly, this focus on the Newest And Latest can be waived to a certain degree: one aspect which differentiates a blog, particularly a hobby blog, from an actual Serious New Site is the element of activism that underlies everything we do. We post because we want to get our opinions out there, and because we think what we post is worth posting, by the low pandemonic standards of the Internet. We say what we say in front of an audience, however silent and unresponsive and imaginary.

And I keep thinking that I'll have things to say about the anime season that has already passed. I didn't get a chance to do more than a cursory glance at the first few episodes of Shukufuku no Campanella and Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi and there's even Amagami SS which I've only seen the first episode of, and already now there's The World God Only Knows coming out and dammit I just want to watch anime, is that so hard.

It's getting harder and harder for me to start caring about keeping up with the new anime coming out in Japan, but increasingly I want to watch the anime which I already have but haven't had a chance to go through. I wonder if lagging behind the curve by a season or two is acceptable.

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Recette and Tear.

There's something fascinating about watching the Internet pick up on this strange little doujin game from Japan that got released on Steam/Impulse/GamersGate.

Obviously, I love Recettear. It features lots of cute girls, including a cute girl as the player character and another cute fairy girl as her advisor. The art style of the character designs is almost calculated to grab me right there, although where there is I shall leave to your fertile imaginations. The music is happy and cheery, and the tinny retro MIDI nature adds to its charm, because sometimes I just want to listen to something that reminds me of the bright happy games and colours of the games of my youth, ie the SNES era. I'd willingly fork out money for a soundtrack.

The dialogue and much-vaunted translation is amusing, which add points to its favour, but it is not a multiplier per se. I mean, I like it, but it does not loom as large in my estimation of the overall package as the characters and the way they're drawn and the way they act and the catchy music that plays in the background when they do what they do. The gameplay does not take away points, but it's actually not really my main draw towards the game; it's not something which annoys or frustrates me, but it does not add value as such.

Based on the commentary I've seen about this game, I actually like it for the aspects which many others see as a disincentive.

"Too anime", they gripe, and I have to mentally adjust my filters to allow that they do not like anime in the way I do. They do not obsess over anime as I frequently do in my blog postings, and the fact that I even have a blog dedicated to the cute girls in anime sets me apart from these people.

But anime is more of a collection of styles than a specific genre, and further complaints about Recettear include it being "too cutesy". Again, this is contrary to my tastes: I like cutesy. I like sugary sweet, I like high-pitched voices squeaking and gasping and cheerily greeting me "good morning~" and burbling about how they had a wonderful dream about having all the sweets they could eat. I don't cringe from it like many do; I actively seek it out, because I think it's cute, and I like cute.

And to turn this standard rant about liking what I like and how there's no accounting for my tastes into another direction, I found myself wondering why I am different.

Except it's not a good idea to pack all the meaning I intend into such a short statement. What I meant was that yes, I'm free to like what I like… but I'm told this in the same way I might be told that I'm free to not like chocolate (this is true, by the way; I don't like chocolate, although I don't hate it). Or that I don't use Facebook (too many other social networking update sites for me). It sets me apart in a "well, there's no accounting for taste" kind of way, and I wonder why my taste has to be accounted for in the first place.

Who decided, for instance, that "cutesy" was bad? Where comes this social expectation that I am not allowed to squee over cute girls and cute clothes and cute music and other "childishly cute things", just because I happen to be a guy in my late twenties? I am not demanding an answer in the fist-shaking placard-waving manner of the Truly Righteous, but this is not a rhetorical question. I would indeed like to know.

There is this perception that people who like the things I do are… well, less than commendable. Why? What is it about the nature of the things we like that are unacceptable for the greater social (whether Real Life or Internet) milieu? They tell me that moe is killing anime, and I simply do not see it, any more than mecha was killing anime, or shounen fighting series was killing anime, or the shoujo that inspired quite a lot of the moe aesthetic. It's a trend; I happen to like this one, but it too shall pass. Just because there are bad shows cashing in on the trend doesn't mean there weren't bad shows cashing in on other trends. It seems unfair to single out "moe" and "cute" as some sort of disgustingly perverted villain.

Yes, I spend lots of money because of the cute anime girls, although it should more properly be for the cute anime clothes being worn on cute anime girls. This has never struck me as being bad; I spend money on what I like, since it's a drop in the ocean beside the vast fortunes spent collectively on, say, Gundam models, or Apple merchandise, or sports memorabilia.

I get the odd feeling that people try to categorize me based on my interests. I do fit into a category; it just isn't the category people think I'm in. This dissonance is frustrating for me, since it's not like those who categorize me with sweeping generalizations actually care about me and people like me enough to amend their statements.

I am not like what I am accused of being, but neither do I suggest that I am better (or worse) than that. This sudden unspoken and unlisted hierarchy of fandom is mysterious and opaque to me, as are its point and purpose.

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Doraemon scolds Makoto.

Seeing as I was easily disposed of in the first round of the Anime Blog Tournament, I accepted it as all being right and good with the natural order of things, and moved on.

However, I was reminded of this again with all the blogger commentary about the loss of Random Curiosity (note that it's often referred to as "Random Curiosity's Loss", rather than "Listless Ink's Win"), which apparently came with a lot of baggage that I had honestly not been aware of. It is like walking along a pristine garden path, noticing an interesting stone, lifting it up, and seeing things wriggling underneath.

It is not a good advertisement for anyone.

As someone who is mostly on the outside of all of this (I don't have time to hang out in #animeblogger like I used to), I explored the commentary with a sort of morbid fascination. A lot of the back-and-forth is apparently on a new cycle; the initial volleys had been fired long before, and the only evidence of their existence are their echoes, and the inference that something must have happened to keep these people tilting at each other like this.

Remember Koom Valley.

From what I can tell, the contest organizers… didn't like Random Curiosity? Liked Random Curiosity? Didn't like RC, but voted for RC? Didn't like RC, voted for RC, and then somehow fixed the match such that RC lost? I don't know anymore; denials and recriminations fly hard and fast, and I feel a little sorry for Listless Ink that their blog was caught up in all of this through no fault of their own.

I've never quite grasped the concept of the Anime Blog Tournament anyway, mainly because the organizers had better things to do (like, say, actually running the tournament) than answer my insipid questions. On the one hand, we're assured that no action on our parts need to be taken, which implies that the ABT organizers would deal with the advertising of their own tournament themselves, on top of the inevitable drama that accompanies a competition format.

And drama will exist, because this is the Internet, where everything posted becomes a sort of performance art. Quite often, the commentary on a given subject makes it obvious that the commenter is simply not interested in a meaningful discussion, from the way it is phrased. The comment is no longer a contribution to the discussion, but has turned into stand-up comedy. Hecklers do not wish to engage in a formal debate, I think.

Early on, I asked what would happen to the losers of each bracket, once the voting is over and the post falls off the main page. I still have not obtained a definite answer, but one thing which got tossed about was "you'll get more hits on your blog due to exposure". Let's see how this worked out:

Before the Anime Blog Tournament: About 500 to 700 hits daily, with spikes peaking over 1000 hits when someone links GamerS on a forum or something.

During the Anime Blog Tournament: About 600 to 700 hits daily. GamerS did not pick up any new viewers during this time.

After the Anime Blog Tournament: About 500 to 700 hits daily, with spikes peaking over 1000 hits when someone links GamerS on a forum or something.

How many of these are spambots will be an exercise left for the reader, because I haven't a clue how to find out.

An anecdote does not make a statistic, but lacking other sources, it is the only thing I can present. My blog was respectably unknown, remained respectably unknown during my time in the tournament, and will apparently remain respectably unknown until the end of time, or until the servers die, whichever comes first.

Presumably my life as an anime blogger will have the same general arc in the eyes of the general public: blog started, screencap comic irregularly updated, blog ended. So it goes.

While I'd appreciate a larger readership, what I really want is a larger commenter base. This tends to come with the larger readership anyway, in the sense that the more people there are watching a train wreck, the more likely there will be someone in there willing to wade in and help. And yet, this doesn't really answer for the other people just watching.

It is like performing your finest acts, displaying your masterpieces of creation, in front of a silent, faceless crowd. You cannot tell whether they are unmoving, or unmoved.

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Misaki and Takumi discuss matters.

One aspect of Shoujo Manga (and their adapted Shoujo Anime) which has puzzled me ever since I started branching out into more shoujo manga (and thus have a larger reference pool) is the idea of the Jerk Guy.

To be fair, this seems to occur mainly in the romantic side of shoujo stories. To be even fairer, Takumi Usui in Kaichou wa Maid-sama is nowhere near the worst example of this sort of thing; in fact, he's comparatively pretty nice. This entire rambling mostly came about because Kaichou wa Maid-sama, being close to the sort of thing I'm talking about, reminded me of it. I can't even remember what the titles that better serve as examples would be, since I seldom follow them for more than a few pages, or about half an episode.

But there is this trend that has existed for as long as I've been reading shoujo stories, which is admittedly not that long (maybe four years?). For some reason, the male love interest will be… I hesitate to use the word "abusive", because that has Connotations, but it's along those lines. His teasing of the female lead often crosses the line into the realm of outright cruelty and sadism. He treats the female lead like dirt, or something less than dirt. He uses his physical superiority to push the female lead around, often into uncomfortable situations. He generally acts cold and aloof and uncaring.

And in many cases, the female lead just accepts this. Kaichou wa Maid-sama is a less objectionable variant: Misaki objects quite strenuously, and is more than a match for most of the other cast members, and Takumi never really does anything more than moderate teasing, mostly just to see Misaki's reactions. But quite often, the female lead of the shoujo story not only tolerates the abuse from the male love interest, she actually welcomes it.

I speculate that this is the shoujo version of the tsundere: the more tsun, the more valuable the dere. In this case, instead of something like a blush and a stuttered "I-it's not like I'm doing this for you!" of the typical female version, the male version has them turning away, walking off, and tossing back a mere "hmph, do what you want". There is even less explicit acceptance of the lead character, due to… I don't know. Maybe it's less cool for men to show their emotions.

Asking around revealed that a lot of the shoujo manga readers I speak to (or at least the women; for some reason guys are reluctant to admit to reading or watching shoujo stories) are also puzzled by this sort of thing. Another theory would be akin to the whole "taming of the shrew" business that is a possible (but not primary) appeal for the tsundere: here, the female reader places herself in the role of the female lead, and is successful at "taming" the "bad boy" male love interest.

Still, the accusatory finger of feminism is often pointed at moe harem comedy shows, which usually have a rather weaker male lead.

Perhaps this is because while the Jerk Guy in shoujo romance is abusive towards the female lead character, all this is happening in-universe. It's part of the story, even if the story presents such an unbalanced relationship as being not only viable, but desirable. In male-targeted harem comedy shows, however, the objectification is done through the fourth wall, aimed at the viewers, rather than character-to-character. Somehow, this makes things more objectionable.

Or something. I don't know; I can't even explain the phenomenon of the Jerk Guy, possibly due to my possession of a Y chromosome.

At least Kaichou wa Maid-sama is significantly more light-hearted, with more assertive and strong main characters. (We'll leave aside the Three Idiots for now.) Misaki is nowhere near a doormat, and Takumi is not a complete jerk. (Later in the manga we get hints about why he's not a complete jerk.) And it helps that I don't have to give out my CHECK!Points, since there's already a character who does that job for me.

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Miku Hatsune and Teto Kasane.

A very common bit of urban information, in the manner of "yeah, now that you mention it" without formal research done on the subject, is that when a person above the age of infancy or early childhood encounters an unfamiliar language, especially when introduced to that language by a friend of some fluency, the first words they will inquire about are the usuals necessary for a brief tour of the country of origin: "hallo", "goodbye", "yes" and "no", "how much is that", "where is the washroom", so on and so forth.

The next words they will inquire about, or sometimes even before the practical ones, are the insults.

"Baka", normally translated to "stupid", is an unusually familiar term among anime fans. I'm not sure why; perhaps it's just a very popular line in anime of the sort often watched as gateway shows. An entire generation of anime fans will remember, with about the same feelings of reminiscence and irritation as a Monty Python fan would to exclamations of "Ni!", the cries of "Ranma no baka!" from Akane Tsundere Tendo.

It is something that has spread to the mainstream, inasmuch as the subculture of anime fans has a mainstream. And once it is in the mainstream, it is limp, watered-down, bereft of passion and vigour. A thing of mundane utility, fascinating to those who had never encountered it before, but treated with the contempt bred from familiarity by those who claim to be "more experienced". Use it too often, they say, and you will wear it out.

Other words seem to have had the same treatment. "Neko" is a common one, since catgirls appear to be fairly popular in anime (so I say, as I queue Mayoi Neko Overrun in my to-watch-this-season list), to the point where I hear the word has been appropriated by another subculture to indicate… you know, I'm not sure, but I remember it placed a far greater significance on the word than merely "cat".

"Arigatou" ("thank you") has also entered mainstream culture, albeit sometimes preceded by "domo" and followed by "Mr. Roboto". A quick poll among my peers reveals that common Japanese words they recognize instantly are "itai" ("it hurts") and "dame" ("stop"), which makes me strangely reluctant to ask them why they recognize these words.

The deeper strata of anime fandom have their own vocabulary that are tiered based on how important these concepts are, often not as easily translated: I would be remiss in not mentioning "moe". Other obvious ones are "tsundere" (and its sisters of varying dysfunction, "yandere" and "kuudere"), "lolicon" and "shotacon", "meganekko", "pettanko", "nekketsu", "iyashi-kei"… even "otaku" seems to have become a badge of pride? I don't know.

I'm not even going into the truly mainstream words: "ramen", "udon", "bento", "sushi"…

I don't really see any point, like a lot of other anime fans, in demanding that people stop using Japanese when conducting discussions in English. Because while you could translate "ramen" to "noodles", you would be missing out on the connotations of the type of noodles (technically you'd have to specify "shoyuu ramen" or "shio ramen" or some such).

And putting aside terms like "tsundere", which seems to defy translation, I haven't even been able to find a good equivalent in English of, say, "ojamashimasu" or "itadakimasu". It makes fanfic-writing very, very difficult.

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Yui on guitar.

The strange thing is that I might have to place K-On as one of my top anime if I based it on my previously-stated metric, which measures rankings by how much the anime has influenced me and my way of thinking. This applies to Cardcaptor Sakura, which taught me that Everything Will Be All Right; The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, which taught me that with the right mindset, every day can be a great adventure; and Hidamari Sketch, which taught me about the beauty in simple things.

(Before anyone accuses me of having a narrow reference pool, I also consider, say, the Discworld series of books on the same tier, by teaching me the value of a good laugh. My writing style is directly descended from my attempts at trying to write like Pratchett. I only mention the anime series just now because this is an anime blog.)

With my top three anime as mentioned, I have no problems with their rankings: they have indirectly changed my life, entirely through changing the way I see the world. (I suppose I'm easily impressionable.) And yet, I hesitate to put K-On in my pantheon of greats.

It's not that I don't like the show. Indeed, I love it; it's fun, funny, and great entertainment, especially whenever Tsumugi appears onscreen. I don't mind rewatching it, and indeed do exactly that. And yet, I cannot quite class it as having "changed my life", since it approached the ranking system from another angle, quite unexpected. I have been remiss in not being clearer in my criteria. Cardcaptor Sakura, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Hidamari Sketch have altered my view of the world in some deep, fundamental way.

K-On altered my experiences in listening to any song that consists of guitars, bass, drums, and assorted stuff that could conceivably be synthesized on a keyboard, by making me picture the K-On girls performing that song. Hardly something so earth-shaking.

It's not as though After School Tea Time fits the music, which can range from "Kimi ni Fuku Kaze" (Full Metal Panic Fumoffu) to the later rock guitar segment of Final Fantasy 6's "Dancing Mad". It is more along the lines of a sort of earworm, except for mental images: you cannot quite get rid of it, despite your best efforts. It just happens. I just see Yui in my mind's eye, flawlessly executing "I'll Face Myself" from Persona 4.

I suppose it's a side-effect of my belief that as long as there is good music and cute girls, I'll be able to enjoy an anime. Therefore, when listening to good music, my mind supplies the cute girls. The thought of the girls of K-On rocking out to something impressively complicated (while in their school uniforms) is also amusing enough to fix that mental image quite firmly.

It helps that a lot of the songs I see the K-On girls play have a lot of what some friends of mine like to call "guitar spam", where the lead guitar gets to show off for pretty much the entire song. I can imagine Azusa staring incredulously at Yui's sudden burst of skill, silently lamenting its ephemeral nature at the next exam.

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From episode 5.

Sora no Manimani is one of those anime series which exists, somewhere, in my backlog. I do not know where it is precisely, or what other anime it is surrounded by. I can only say that, when confronted by questions along the lines of "have you seen it", I have seen some of it, but not all, and what I have witnessed has passed through the veil of memories, leaving nothing. Only I remain.

And yet, its ending theme, "Hoshizuku no Surround", is a regular feature on my playlist. I seem to recall vaguely that CooRie does this sort of song style, but I am not yet desperate enough to dig through my entire song collection to see if I've heard them before.

I don't know why I love this song so much. The opening theme ("Super Noisy Nova") isn't all that interesting to me, and experience has taught me that an anime doesn't need an ending theme (or an opening theme, for that matter) I like for me to enjoy the overall package. For example, Zettai Karen Children is not all that impressive OP/ED-wise (apart from maybe the high-energy fun of the first OP), but it's still very much rewatchable.

And yet, taking my top three anime of all time, all of them have music which I believe I would regularly listen to even if I had never seen the respective anime before. This covers the opening theme, the ending theme, and the BGM; occasionally image songs count. They could be catchy (Hidamari Sketch at number three), clever (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya at number two), or just good (Cardcaptor Sakura at number one).

So, faced with something like "Hoshizuku no Surround", I am tempted to get to work on my anime backlog just so I can watch Sora no Manimani sooner rather than later (or never, in the case of stuff like Sketchbook, which I still need to get around to watching one of these days). There is a treacherous thought in my mind, surfacing from the depths of non-reason and illogic, an Iago of temptation: surely a show with so beautiful an ending theme must have such quality in its other aspects.

I dread the day when my illusions are inevitably shattered.

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